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Supreme Court seeks response from Centre, ECI on plea to debar persons with serious offences from contesting elections

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought responses from the Centre and the Election Commission on a plea to debar people against whom charges have been framed in serious offences from contesting elections.

A bench of Justice K M Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, and also to the poll panel.

The Apex court was hearing a plea filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay on the issue.

In the alternative, the plea filed by Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay sought direction to the Election Commission of India to use its plenary power conferred under Article 324, to amend the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order 1968, to insert additional
conditions for recognition and continuance as a State or National Party, in order to debar the person from contesting an election, against whom charges have been framed in serious offences.

The plea by Ashwini Upadhyay says that criminals are able to get votes based on their caste or religious affiliation, their money power, their perceived willingness to bend and break the law in favor of their constituents and also coercion and intimidation of their rivals.

He further said that criminals have no interest in standing as independents and generally stand as candidates of recognized political parties because political parties are connected to distinct leaders, families, ethnic groups and social bases. 

“Criminals tap these networks to expand their appeal beyond their own narrow support bases. It is necessary to state that in a country like ours, with high rates of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, party symbols hold great weight as they serve as an important visual cue through which millions of voters connect to electoral politics,” noted the plea.

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